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PSU's Clark feeds off friendship with Robinson

9/10/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

When Daryll Clark got back to his locker after Penn State's 45-14 rout of Oregon State, the Nittany Lions quarterback picked up his phone and began flipping through the countless text messages.

One in particular brought a smile to his lips.

It began like this: "Hey dawg, you've got to score on that quarterback sweep. If it was me, I would have scored."

Former Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson was referring to a 24-yard scamper Clark had against the Beavers that would set up a touchdown pass. Robinson broke off many such runs during a stellar 2005 season in which he claimed Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Year honors and led Penn State to the Rose Bowl.

At least Clark has something to shoot for, and Robinson doesn't let him forget it.

"I thought it was hilarious," Clark said. "He could be doing anything else in the world, but he was tuned in to watch us play. Mike is a real cool, cool guy."

The two quarterbacks are close friends and usually talk once a week. Clark last spoke to Robinson from the team hotel the night before the Oregon State game.

Robinson is mentoring the Nittany Lions' current starter on how to handle the position, the expectations, the criticism and the preparation required to be great.

"He's been through the losses, been through the wins," Clark said. "He said, 'If [losses] happen and a lot of people begin to turn on you, it's something you can't feed into, it's something you can't pay attention to.'"

No one is turning on Clark right now after he led Penn State to dominant performances in its first two games. The 17th-ranked Nittany Lions are tied for third nationally in scoring (55 ppg) and rank eighth in rushing offense (286.5 ypg). Clark has a quarterback rating of 176.3 (14th nationally) with four touchdowns (3 pass, 1 rush) and no turnovers.

His steady play and ability to hurt defenses in multiple ways has, for many, confirmed the comparisons with Robinson. Some fans are calling Clark "Little Mike Rob."

"I'll take that compliment any day," Clark said.

Clark is somewhat surprised by the offense's stress-free dominance, especially since Penn State has used only "a little bit" of its playbook. But his comfort level stems in part from the preparation methods he learned from Robinson, now a running back with the San Francisco 49ers.

Robinson used to watch game tapes three times: the first for personal enjoyment, the second to study the defensive front seven and the third to watch coverages in the secondary.

"That's the type of routine I've been doing," Clark said. "I knew how to watch it, but you have to watch it thoroughly."